Loss and renunciation

The line between choice and mandate

By William Wetherall

First posted 1 November 2007
Last updated 24 August 2015

Ways of losing nationality Nothing automaticexceptStatutory loss of birthright nationality
Japanese terminology Ridatsu (renunciation) | Hōki (abandonment) | Sōshitsu (loss) Peace Treaty effects: Hōki → ridatsu → sōshitsu
American terminology Renunciation | Relinquishment | Loss

Ways of losing nationality

Nationality can be lost in many ways -- by automatic operation of a treaty or law, by permission granted after notification or declaration, or by revocation.

The process of losing one's nationality -- one's status as a "natural" member or "national" of the nation, as a "patirot" or "non-alien" -- is variously called denaturalization, denationalization, expatriation, and alienation. None of these metaphors travel well in Japanese, which represents them in terms of loss, renunciation, or deprivation.

Actively making a declaration in which one intentionally distances or separates oneself form a possessed nationality is called repudiation (否認 hinin "disavow, disclaim"), relinquishment (放棄 hōki "abandon, release"), and renunciation (離脱 ridatsu "separation").

Passively, one can be divested, deprived, or stripped of a nationality (剥奪される hakudatsu sareru).

Otherwise, one is said to simply lose a nationality (失う ushinau, 喪失する sōshitsu suru).


Nothing "automatic"

The Nationality Law has no provisions for truly automatic acquisition or loss of nationality.

Acquisition of nationality under Nationality Law

Whether at time of birth or later in life, Japanese nationality is today acquired by automatic operation of the law, only after filing a notification of birth at the time of a child's birth, or a notification of legitimation before a child reaches majority, or a notification of naturalization after receiving permission to naturalize.

Notifications at time of birth or legitimation do not require permission in advance of filing. Notifications are vetted by municipal governments, and nationality is acquired if the particulars are accurate and meet the conditions stated in the law.

Naturalization requires permission, hence naturalizers first apply for permission to naturalize. Once permission has been granted, the naturalizer files a notification of naturalization with a local government, which vets the particulars, and if found to be accurate the naturalizer acquires nationality.

Failure to file notifications, whether at time of birth or when naturalizing, within fairly short periods of time after birth or after receiving permission to naturalize, will usually result in failure to acquire nationality.

Loss of nationality under Nationality Law


Statutory loss of birthright nationality



Terminology in Japanese laws

Japan's laws generally use the following terms, the approximately the following English meanings. Note that translations of Japanese laws are notoriously inconsistent in their translations of these terms. Note also that the nuances of the English "equivalents" variably considerably with usage in English, hence the whole idea of "equivalency" is questionable.

More important, when reading Japanese laws, is to observe patterns of differentiation of usage in Japanese. Differentiation of usage, if careful and consistent, is an element of what I call "structure" -- and structural translation aims at consistency in metaphorical representation, in this case consistency in the English "tag" used to mark a particular Japanese term.

In the following headings, I have shown the Japanese term as it is graphically written, its romanization, and the English "tag" that I am using to represent the Japanese term in structural translations.


離脱 ridatsu "renunciation"

Declaration to a state of one's desire to lose its nationality is usually called renunciation. One generally renounces State A's nationality to State A.

While nationals of a state may in principle have the right to renounce its nationality, the state may reserve the right not to recognize a declaration of renunciation it loss of its nationality would result in statelessness.

Both Japan and the United States require national who would renounce their nationality to formally file documents declaring their desire to lose nationality. And both states reserve the right not to permit renunciation.

The United States formally differentiates two kinds of repudiations of U.S. nationality -- "renunciation" and "relinquishment".

To be continued.


放棄 hōki "abandonment"

Declaration to a state whose nationality one already has, or is about to acquire, of one's intent not to be the national of another state whose nationality one also possesses, is usually called abandonment. Whether a declaration of abandonment to State A of State B's nationality results in the loss of State B's nationality entirely depends on State B's nationality laws.

Some states regard abandonment as the equivalent of renunciation. Hence their laws provide that a national who makes a declaration of abandonment of the state's nationality, to another state, will lose the state's nationality. However, such provisions usually operate if the national has another state's nationality, hence would not become stateless.

Other states, however, do not recognize abandonment as a cause for losing nationality.

Japan recognizes abandonment as cause for losing its nationality. The United States does not.


喪失 sōshitsu "loss"

To be continued.

Most states have provisions for administrative or legal actions that result in a national losing its nationality.

Both Japan and the United States have provisions for initiation of loss of nationality proceedures.

Official reports of loss of nationality

Japan reports all officially recognized losses of its nationality in the Kanpō (Official Gazette), a daily record of Diet proceedings, promulgations of laws, and all manner of announcements and notices related to government actions. This publication also announces permissions to naturalize. Kanpō is published by the National Printing Bureau.

In the United States, the Federal Register, which like the Congressional Record is published by the Government Printing Office, issues a "Quarterly Publication of Individuals, Who Have Chosen To Expatriate, as Required by Section 6039G". The section number is that of a provision in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) pursuant to a 1996 health insurance act. The competent agency for the code is the Internal Revenue Service in the Department of the Treasury. A typical web version of the quarterly report is prefaced like this.

This notice is provided in accordance with IRC section 6039G, as amended, by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) of 1996. This listing contains the name of each individual losing United States citizenship (within the meaning of section 877(a)) with respect to whom the Secretary received information during the quarter ending [Month Day, Year.

To be continued.


Peace Treaty effects

Hōki → ridatsu → sōshitsu

Some treaties have caused automatic acquisition or loss of Japanese nationality, by operation of provisions of the treaty, or by the nature of treaty. The Nationality Law was extended to Taiwan within months after it entered into force in the prefectures in 1899.

Acquisition of nationality by treaties

Japanese nationality was acquired by most inhabitants of Taiwan by automatic operation of provisions in the Shimonoseki Treaty of 1895. The 1899 Nationality Law was extended to Taiwan within three months of the start of its enforcement in the prefectures, after which Taiwanese were treated according to its provisions.

The Portsmouth Treaty of 1905 did not contain provisions for Russian subjects who remained in Karafuto to become Japanese but rather guaranteed the protection of their rights as Russians so long as they agreed to abide by Japanese laws.

The Nationality Law was not extended to Karafuto until 1924, after which it would appear that alien inhabitants were able to naturalize. Russian Karafuto Ainu, however, were treated somewhat differently, as Japan had once embraced Sakhalin Ainu as its subjects (see below).

Japanese nationality has been automatically acquired as a natural effect of the treaty itself only in the case of the 1910 treaty of annexation between Japan and Korea. Since Korea had ceded itself in its entirety to Japan, no provisions were made for nationality, since after the treaty came into force there would be no Korea, hence no possibility of remaining Korean.

Pursuant to the treaty's enforcement, the Empire of Korea became the Japanese territory of Chosen, and affiliated inhabitants became Japanese subjects of Chosenese subnationality (regionality). The 1899 Nationality Law was never applied to Chosen. Nationality matters were treated according to customary law.

Loss of nationality by treaties

The 1875 Treaty of St. Petersburg allowed Russians on the Kurils to remain Russian and Japanese on Sakhalin to remain Japanese. Sakhalin and Kuril natives (土人 dojin), however, were treated somewhat differently. Since both Russia and Japan had embraced them as their subjects, Sakhalin natives, mostly Ainu, were given three years within which to move to Japan including the Kurils or become Russian subjects, while Kuril Ainu were given three years to move to Sakhalin or other parts of Russia or become Japanese subjects.

Taiwanese and Chosenese -- as Koreans were called after the 1910 annexation -- lost their nationality from 28 April 1952 as a natural effect of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951. The loss, and the grounds for the loss, were tacitly recognized by ROC in its peace treaty with Japan in 1952, and by ROK in its normalization treaty with Japan in 1965.

The loss of Japanese nationality by Taiwanese and Chosenese in 1952 was not a revocation of nationality by Japan, but a mass secession from Japanese nationality of the affiliates of Taiwan and Chosen the moment these territories were separated from Japan as a result of the operation of the peace treaty. Civil Affairs Notification No. 439, dated 19 April 1952, was not a law but a Ministry of Justice circular stating the natural effects of the treaty -- which in the absence of other provisions.


Terminology in American laws


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